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Guatemalan twin requires more surgery

Both girls doing well otherwise, doctors say

The twins dressed up for their going-away party at UCLA's Mattel Children's Hospital in January.
The twins dressed up for their going-away party at UCLA's Mattel Children's Hospital in January.

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Two Guatemalan girls separated after being conjoined at their heads return to a Los Angeles hospital for further treatment. CNN's Jill Coggiola reports. (May 27)
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LOS ANGELES, California (CNN) -- Doctors said Tuesday that the Guatemalan conjoined twins who were separated in a 23-hour surgery in August are continuing to show improvement, but one will undergo surgery Thursday to replace a valve that will help drain fluid from her brain.

Maria Teresa Quiej Alvarez, 22 months old, suffered from meningitis while in Guatemala, and the infection resulted in bleeding around the valve, or shunt. The shunt is to be replaced in an hour-long surgery Thursday at UCLA's Mattel Children's Hospital.

It will be her fifth surgery since the separation procedure, and the third time a shunt has been replaced.

"She is still doing much better than naturally expected," said Dr. Jorge Lazareff, director of the UCLA pediatrics department. "I am still absolutely hopeful -- as I always was since day one -- that she will overcome this difficulty."

The other sister, Maria de Jesus, is doing remarkably well after suffering from a seizure due to high fever in Guatemala. Doctors said she was treated in her homeland and was recovering when she and her sister arrived Thursday via a private plane.

"She's ready to go home," Lazareff said.

She is being treated with antibiotics and will remain at the hospital with her sister for the next two weeks, when both are expected to return home.

"I have to tell you Maria de Jesus is absolutely charming everybody up on the floor and doing extremely well," said Chris Embleton, co-founder of Healing the Children, a nonprofit organization that has helped raise money for the two girls' medical treatments.

The girls' parents have stayed in Guatemala. Embleton said their mother ran to the plane when it arrived in Guatemala to pick up the children and started crying.

"Please save my baby," Embleton quoted the mother as saying.

The twins were joined at the head for the first 377 days of their lives, before doctors at UCLA separated them. Each girl had a separate, normal-size brain, but their veins crisscrossed and had to be rebuilt.

In January, after months of therapy and rehabilitation, the twins were released from UCLA and were flown home to Guatemala City.

-- CNN producer Stan Wilson contributed to this story.


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